Room to swing a rhino
Fat Rhino was the new kid on the block when we visited Kota Kinabalu in early March 2016 — they had not yet opened their bar or rooftop sunset viewing area — but their spacious dorms are some of the best we’ve seen in KK.
In rooms that don’t have that prisoner-of-war-camp-feeling that many in KK do — there’s plenty of room to swing a rhino – you’ll find very solid wooden bunks. Dorms come in a number of flavours: either air-con or fan-cooled and mixed dorms have either four or eight beds with shared outside bathroom, while the women’s dorm has 14 beds with its own ensuite. Each dorm is painted a different bright colour which contrasts nicely with the dark wood of the bunks and floor.
All rooms have large windows with city views, and roller blinds if it all gets too much. Nice thick spring mattresses will have you dreaming you’re staying in a fancy hotel. A clean white bottom sheet, a blanket and towel are provided. For a top sheet it’s BYO. Bunks have two power sockets each, but no private lighting — this may come, as they had not added all finishing touches. Large lockable filing-cabinet-type lockers divide the bunks, giving a little privacy. Hot-water bathrooms are spotless, but small.
Following the same style as the dorms, Fat Rhino has a few private rooms with a queen-size bed with either air-con, or fan and ensuite or share bathroom. Privates rooms are large and airy, all with the same large windows. You are provided with a bonus top sheet, and your towel is folded into a swan, so it feels more like a hotel than a hostel. Other than the bed and the swan, the rooms are sparse, and we feel they could provide a bedside table or at least a chair, but early days — these may be on the way. Unless you particularly wanted a private room in a hostel with the potential to meet other travellers, better value rooms with more facilities can be found in some of the smaller hotels around KK.
The communal areas at Fat Rhino are tremendous and should only get better when they open the bar and rooftop. For now an enormous white room, which doubles as the reception, has three big fat comfy yellow couches that corral a white with yellow polka dot rug. A bar-height bench edges the windows with a number of stools — great for plugging into the free WiFi, or just staring out at busy Beach Street below. Hipster artwork with motivational sayings brightens the white space, and encourages you to dream, laugh and live — all good sentiments.
A simple breakfast of toast and fruit is included, and decent coffee from a machine is available 24 hours — just when we need it. There’s also a vending machine for cold drinks. Staff are friendly and helpful, but did suggest that the rooms can be a tad noisy, as every night on Beach Street a live band plays from 21:00-24:00 and then music continues to 2:00 — it’s all good if you’re up for a party, but bring earplugs if not.
Other than the potential to keep you awake, Fat Rhino has a great location, right in the centre of the city, minutes’ walk to bus stations and boats to the islands. Look out for the bright yellow building towering above Pizza Hut on the corner of Gaya and Beach streets — up several flights of stairs, past some hip street art, you’ll find the hostel.
Fat Rhino is good now and has the potential to be great when it’s all complete. Dorms recommended.
Address: 1st floor, 120 Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu
T: (088) 204 881;
Coordinates (for GPS): 116º4'34.9" E, 5º58'58.29" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 60 ringgit
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Dorm fan cooled||30 ringgit||30 ringgit|
|Dorm air-con||35 ringgit||35 ringgit|
|Dbl fan share bathroom||80 ringgit||80 ringgit|
|Dbl air-con private bathroom||100 ringgit||100 ringgit|
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
Our top 10 places to stay in and around Kota Kinabalu